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Spirit of Christmas past, present on tour

When Debbie Schmidt first walked through the house at 97 W. Green Street four years ago, all she saw was possibilities.

Built in 1847, the home, historically known as "Prospect Hill," offered seven fireplaces, high ceilings and most importantly, a chance for Schmidt to fulfill her dream.

"I had always wanted to live in an old home," Schmidt said. "I always loved them. This was a beautiful old home with great bones."

The inside needed some updating, however, and Schmidt and her husband Ron have spent the last four years adding their own touches, from the master bedroom suite complete with a sitting room and sunken tub in the bathroom to a restored dining room on the first floor.

Last year, they added an addition that serves now as a recreational room for their grandchildren but can later be turned into a first-floor master suite if needed.

"We ripped everything down and started from scratch," Schmidt said of the work done. "I had a fun time restoring this house. I do interior design work, and I have a passion for it."

Schimdt's home is just one of 14 historic homes that will be open for people to visit on Dec. 6 as part of the Westminster Holiday House tour.

Held every other year since 1996, the tour is a fundraiser for the Westminster Historic District Commission as well as the Historical Society of Carroll County and the Community Foundation's Fire House Clock Tower.

"It is bigger than usual," said Tim Rogers, a city planner for Westminster who organizes the tour. "Normally we have between six and 10 homes. We expanded (the tour) to an entire neighborhood.

"The tour is a little more than a mile to walk, Rogers said, and streets will be closed for the event.

A shuttle will also be available. This year's tour will also include McDaniel College, where two buildings will be open.

"Typically about 600 to 1,000 people come," Rogers said. "We had 1,200 tickets printed. We've never sold out, but if people come and we're sold out, we'll work something out."

On a recent Sunday, Robert Lemieux was busy finishing tiling his shower in preparation for the house tour. While he loves the beauty and details of his 1920s home, Lemieux is constantly tweaking his home to keep it going.

"It's amazing the skills you didn't know you had but do out of necessity," Lemieux chuckled. "I don't envision my house as being the type typically on a tour, but that's probably because I live here every day."

Still, Lemieux is getting the lights up and the tree decorated in preparation for the tour, after his neighbor, whose home is also on the tour, urged him to participate.

"It's a great community event," Lemieux said. "There are two facets to it, looking at older, historic homes and the holiday decorations. I'm happy to support the community."

Schmidt is looking forward to the event.

"What a fun evening," Schmidt said. "There are a lot of beautiful, old, historic homes in Carroll County. What a great way to raise money."


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